This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
I wrote a column last year about how, as an unpublished or unrepresented author, it’s hard to know whether a publishing deal is good or not. Having recently read a forum debate about which is the better route – traditional or self-publishing – I’ve realised that finding the answer is even more difficult. Having been on both sides of the fence, as a hybrid author, I think the grass is greener for me on the side of traditional publishing.
Last year I turned down the first offers to traditionally publish my books from a big publisher, as I made more in a week than they were offering me for an advance. Yet, in the end, I accepted an offer, despite effectively taking a pay cut. It was a risk at the time that I couldn’t really afford to take, but it offered me things that self-publishing couldn’t. For example, it offered me the opportunity to have my book stocked by big outlets – I don’t think anything is going to beat seeing my book at the airport or on the shelves in Asda. I can’t imagine that reviews of my book would ever have appeared in The Sun or Closer magazine without my publishing team.
I’ve also learnt a huge amount from working with editors on a novel from the start to finish. There’s the expertise relating to the marketing, the cover design and the sales teams, which you have to take into account, too. It’s added value you can learn from and it doesn’t really come with self-publishing.In the end, although my advance might have seemed lower than sales from my eBooks, it is only an advance. When I take into consideration royalties, audiobook deals and foreign right sales – as well as the fact my publishers publish my books every six months – it works out pretty similar to my earnings when I solely self-published. There’s no way I would have got to listen to my book as an audiobook or see my book translated into Dutch or Italian without my agent and my traditional book deal.
I’ve since learnt that deciding whether to accept an advance (even a low one) is a personal choice. It comes down to whether you can afford to accept the offer and what it might lead to in the future. Whilst there’s always the potential to earn more by self-publishing, there are up-front costs involved. I spend about £500 for editing (line and copy) and a professional cover design for my self-published books. It’s a big outlay and you can’t guarantee you’ll make back.
Whilst I have had some bumpier times during my self-publishing adventures, in one particular month I sold over 6,500 books. Of course, I’ve also had years where my books haven’t done as well. When my titles have been doing badly on the Amazon charts, it reminds me how difficult self-publishing can be and how, at times like that, having a contract and a definite marketing plan is of great comfort.
There’s always going to be a debate as to whether authors should self-publish or go down the traditional route, but it’s definitely a personal choice. Whilst I used to think of it only with a business hat on and what made me the most money, I’ve begun to learn that it’s not that simple and there’s much more to it.
Which side of the fence do you sit on in this debate?